On Thursday 21 June UCT opened its doors to 50 high school learners from historically disadvantaged areas around Cape Town for an address by visiting US First Lady Michelle Obama.
The day consisted of presentations from the various faculties at UCT, a campus tour, Obama’s speech, and, finally, the chance to pose questions to the esteemed First Lady.
The day aimed to show learners that no matter where they have come from, gaining a degree from a prestigious institution such as UCT is by no means impossible.
Athi Msutu, a mentor who assisted on the day, echoed this, saying: “Because we were there as [the learners’] mentors, they were able to see that UCT students are just normal people from all sorts of backgrounds and circumstances, just like them.”
The First Lady also spoke of her background: how she had dreamed about going to a top university, but neither she or anyone else believed that would ever become a reality, and how she came to attend Princeton University.
Although Obama only spoke to a small, select group of students, Msutu hopes that her message will go beyond the walls of UCT, and inspire other students around the country. “Mrs Obama’s words have the power to touch everyone who gets to hear or read them thanks to the media and multimedia. And that’s because of how universal her message is,” she added.
The First Lady showed an understanding of the struggles the learners face, and those they may face in the future. Msutu explained, “I got the feeling that she does understand how difficult things are for most South African students, even though she did not specifically talk about our educational challenges.”